Global Brands – Did they take part in recession?

30/11/2011

The Autumn statement provided depressing news for many households and entrepreneurs trying to build a future. Running a business is hard enough without listening to Euro crisis problems, poor growth forecasts and a recovery in the dim and distant future. The resultant effect of the Chancellors statement for many will be – baton down the hatches and reduce investment in people development and new ideas. This becomes a self fulling prophecy and usually you get what you think about.

There are always different ways to view the world, we can be a builder or destroyer of our own future. Well my advice is life is too short for two years of life to evaporate, i.e sitting there and waiting for economic recovery to happen, we should embrace a mindset of not taking part in the recession. Scarcity is the mother of innovation and history tells us that some of the most successful brands on the planet started or thrived during recessionary times here are just a few examples:

General Electric – Not only did Thomas Edison set this Company up in the middle of a recession it thrived when the US economy faced collapse.

IBM – Set up in the middle of a US economy slump

General Motors – set up during the US financial crash of 1908 and went on a buying spree when the Federal Reserve was approaching melt down

Disney – really started to take off smack bang in the middle of the Great Depression

Burger King – started just after the Korean war, its founders philosophy being people still need to eat

Microsoft – Started by Bill Gates and Paul Allen in 1975 when the United States was mired in stagflation -the combination of rising unemployment and inflation combined with stagnant GDP

CNN – Started when the Federal Reserve made the decision to aggressively raise interest rates to curb inflation, it caused a “double dip” recession

Apple– Apple got its start in 1975, during another downturn and thrived just after the dot-com bubble burst!

So the message is…Its not all bad news, it’s about having a vision and mindset to create something special and different. Whilst we must avoid putting our head in the sand and thinking all is OK, we must find a balance – place one foot firmly on the accelerator and have the other hovering over the brake!


Google comes to the High Growth Foundation

29/11/2011

Creating innovative high performance cultures is what Alexis Giles from Google’s Mountain View HQ (San Francisco) will talk about tomorrow evening. Alexis will share her insights and provide over 250 delegates with a preview of what made Google the global phenomenon it is today. We are also delighted to have Steve Oliver CEO from Music Magpie, one of the North’s potential global stars. Deepak Jayaraman, from Goldman Sachs will provide his highly valued opinion on what his organisation is doing to create more high growth businesses – the importance of leadership, differentiated value propositions, mindset and attitude.

Hopefully this event will stimulate big thinking in the Region and get entrepreneurs to remember “we have one life, give it a go, aim for the big time and avoid any regrets in years to come”. How many times have I heard people say “I wish I would have……….”

Implementing big thinking often means risk, however, if growth decisions are made within a framework of insight and peer-to-peer networks then it creates some degree of comfort to those who have a burning desire to make a difference.

Most successful entrepreneurs I have met have been inspired by someone, something or an event in their life – one that drives change and a new path. I certainly hope this showcase and the study tour we are taking to the West Coast of the States (Silicon Valley) in early 2012, will stimulate individuals to embrace a truly limitless view on where they can take their business. High growth takes courage, determination and balls – this event is for doers not dreamers……


High Growth Entrepreneurs – Have you got an innovation department?

22/11/2011

Business incubators have become a common feature of public sector enterprise support in recent years; many of these establishments have proved to be highly effective in nurturing early stage entrepreneurs. They don’t just provide a desk and somewhere to turn up every morning, their added value comprises: a place to network, share ideas and collaborate. The really good ones offer mentoring and coaching, this is often what makes the real difference between success and me too performance. In many UK regions incubators have become a hot bed of exciting new businesses, the potential employers of graduate talent – Autonomy in Cambridge is a fantastic example.

This concept of incubation needs to feature prominently in the culture and mindset of winning businesses – any ambitious entrepreneurial company should have a “department” or function responsible for building a pipeline of new thinking that delivers potential new revenue streams or adds value to existing customer experiences. I don’t mean a department literally – it’s about having an organisational process that brings together thinkers, doers, sellers and controllers, one that not only develops new ideas but also implements the commercially viable nuggets which emerge from the process of discovery. The concept of incubation delivers a major thrust for gaining an edge in the market place.

It is my opinion that creative intelligence is the ultimate source of competitive advantage – high growth companies tend to be disproportionately more innovative than the rest of the SME population. They explore, embrace diversity, live in their customer’s world, experiment with new possibilities and avoid complacency by making creative thought a habit, not something they do once a fortnight on a Friday afternoon. It must form part of an organisations “soul”. My next few blogs will explore some simple yet highly effective ideas for embedding a culture of incubation.


Livercool Business Awards

18/11/2011

I experienced another great celebration of the entrepreneurial spirit that lives in Liverpool at last nights Downtown’s Livercool Business Awards. It was a packed house, great laugh, met many old mates as well as new contacts.

If the other major cities in the UK could replicate this energy…..then growth would most certainly follow. Celebrate success, acknowledge the winners, give recognition to those who are making a difference – turn off the news and lets stop conditioning our minds to doom and gloom. From what I saw last night there are some fantastic things going on in Liverpool and the North.

A great example of public and private sector working together for the benefit of the City and its people and employers – top stuff.

Well done Frank!


Building a high growth business – The Essentials

15/11/2011

I was really honored to be asked to present the fast growing business award at last weeks North of England Excellence Dinner. The winner was 3P Logistics and at the end of the ceremonies I made a beeline for the winner, Ian Walker, I wanted to get his view on what it takes to build a high growth company. It was clear the moment Ian started talking he had a passion for his business that was off the scale – it created an instant engagement which meant you had to listen to what he had to say. The guts of his story provided a truly fascinating insight into the motivators for setting up and growing a business. As well as passion, courage and bravery feature high on the list of special qualities – leaving a highly paid job when you have dependants can be an extremely scary moment in life, this is what sorts out the true entrepreneurs from the dreamers. This takes an enourmous amount of guts – fear is what holds so many individuals back from taking the leap.

A few years down the line new dilemmas and challenges are presented to entrepreneurs like Ian.  They become most profound at the point when the company is providing a comfortable life style – the internal conversations usually goes something like this, do I take more risk and go for it again and build an even bigger business? However, so few are willing to subject themselves to the burdens and stresses that got them to the well deserved position of a regular salary and the associated benefits that come with being your own boss.

Well my advice for those who decide to continue going for growth is, find a mentor first, someone you trust, then together work out how you are going to do it – the following are what I refer to as “The Essentials” –

  • Become future focused and prepare a strategy and game plan which sets the course for the next three years
  • Understand the best ways of financing growth, one that balances personal risk, commercial gain and control (or loss of control)
  • Effective leadership is core to success. Building a team/organisational structure you can rely on to support the business transition is vital
  • Embed disciplined management systems to provide an effective barometer of commercial performance – the bigger you get the tighter the controls need to be
  • Ensure you have created a customer focused culture, one that delivers innovative product and service propositions carrying higher margins
  • Ensure you have a differentiated business model  – one that creates real competitive advantage to support domestic and possibly international growth
  • Condition your mindset to win and success.
  • Ensure you have the support of your partner and immediate family

Having trusted advisers and being part of a network of likeminded people becomes an important part of the journey it also helps to maintain your sanity.

 


Liverpool cruise liner – its got to happen!

13/11/2011

I have written about this before, to be honest I am really puzzled why Southampton have such a big problem and why are they are demanding the Council pays back the European aid? It’s about UK Plc ! Southampton have benefitted from the draw and pull of the South East, more specifically London, is this not an unfair advantage? My message is keep going Joe Anderson and make sure this happens for the North, the impact could be massive for the economy. Success for Liverpool will breed more high growth businesses, create more new starts and help existing pubs, restaurants, clubs and the broader tourism sector.

It seems like a bit of a no brainer to me.


High growth entrepreneurs need a mentor

08/11/2011

A mentor is one of the most important tools in the entrepreneurs kit bag. Growth companies constantly reach forks in the road – so, which way?  As your business gets bigger then hopefully the team you have created will help you to make the decision on which road to take.  However there are often BIG decisions that are outside the scope of the knowledge of the guys sat around the table.  Having a mentor – someone whos experience and judgement you trust can be a serious crutch on these occasions.  Asking those very simple questions like, what would you do?  How would you approach it?  Who should I go and speak to?  Who are the best advisers? – to someone who has experienced the scars of the pain you are feeling is all too often the answer.  Every successful entrepreneur we have worked with (and that’s thousands) lean on someone they respect, all too often that advice comes over a beer or coffee.  It’s not formal, it’s not shrouded in business plans and three-year P & L calculations – its good solid common sense.

The reality is that there are so many individuals out there who have succeeded in business and are more than happy to provide a helping hand – the fact is they have not been asked.  The wisdom, experience and insight to help us make better decisions often comes free, from willing souls who just want to help others overcome the hurdles and challenges they face. The High Growth Foundation we have set up is living proof that members who are much further on in their journey are only too willing to give someone their time, experience and thoughts, without any strings attached!

So the conclusion is, if you are trying to grow your business find someone who has been down your path – invite them for a brew and use the magic words – please can I ask your advice.  It could be the best couple of quid you have ever spent.

Most of the battles in business you have to win are in your mind first. Your mentor can help you work out your game plan and indeed make better informed decisions.